Monday, November 24, 2008

In which I am a dumbass.

So I was working out with my trainer today, and she mentioned that there at the gym they are doing this Reindeer Olympics thing, where you put together a team to compete in an array of events, including push-ups, crunches, leg-presses, some running distances, etc. One of the events is 500 meters of rowing on the ergometer, and we got talking about that, and thinking about times, and talking about her time in the event (she was a rower in high school), and before you knew it I was wanting to see how fast I could do the 500 meters.

One minute and fifty point two seconds later, I had beaten her time from last week but I thought I might die. No really, I mean it. I walked a few laps, I got some water, but I could not stop breathing hard and tasting blood from my lungs. She reassured me that she had felt this bad when she did it, too, but she also felt horrible for letting me be, well, such a dumb-ass. Then I spent a little quality time in the ladies room feeling like I might throw up. Anyone with half a brain would not have thought, as I did, about what I could do back when I was in shape, but would rather have remembered how out of cardio shape I am. But no, I was READY! And foolish.

The good news is that erging feels like something I could do for a full-body workout that does not bother my shoulder and also does not strain my hamstring, which has been hurting lately.*

The bad news is that I still feel like coughing every time I inhale suddenly.

But the really good news? The first minute and a half or so of that rowing was the most fun I have had in about two years. Damn, but it felt good to race.

* Before you ask, "What did you do to your hamstring?" the answer is: nothing. It started hurting when I was in England this summer, and at that time all I was doing was walking and sitting.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Book Report: Warrior Girls.

Last weekend, the PP gave me my favorite birthday gift so far (even more than the yarn, in terms of enjoyment so far!), Michael Sokolove's Warrior Girls: Protecting Our Daughters Against the Injury Epidemic in Women's Sports. Even though it is That Time of the Semester and I have been knitting up a storm, I have almost finished this book: I have about 50 pages to go, which means I am entering the Protective Phase of reading, where instead of racing along in a book I am enjoying, I slow down, so it does not end too soon.

But the fact that I have not finished it will not keep me from writing about it for you today. What? You never wrote a book report about a book you had not finished? I thought so.

Anyway, you might have come across this guy's writing in other places, such as the big NYTimes magazine article last May. I also heard him interviewed on a nationally syndicated public radio show called "51%," which focuses on women's issues.

His book focuses primarily on soccer to discuss (1) the fact that girls suffer more sports injuries--especially but not exclusively ACL tears--than boys and (2) what might be done to prevent these injuries, short of pulling girls out of sports.

I really appreciate that he makes a big point of noting how beneficial sports and physical activity are for girls. He emphasizes this point throughout the book, noting in numerous ways how essential Title IX has been. I suppose he does this in part to fend off critique from people who might accuse him of denigrating women in sport in suggesting that women's bodies work differently from men's. But mostly he says it because he believes it. He talks frequently of how important sport--swimming--has been for his own daughter, and he seems to make similar observations of other women and girls through his research. He writes at one point:
Girls, through sports, gain the joy of physicality and spirited play that has long been the staple of a boy's childhood. They get to compete in a wide range of sports through high school and college, no longer just field hockey and softball and a handful of others, and they play the games well--better, in fact, than the boys if the measure of quality is team play. Girls indulge in far less posturing than boys, less look-at-me chest beating, less taunting of opponents. Athletics help shape girls into women who are both competitive and collaborative, a formidable combination that most management experts now recognize as the best model of leadership. They take ownership of their own bodies. They go after what they want. Their strength gives them power.
He also writes about how women tend to describe their athletic performance differently. He tells the story of the "Battle of the Sexes" between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs. He tells how King beat Riggs in straight sets, and then considers her response:
Depending on how you looked at it, either King affirmed some point about women's abilities in athletics or she avoided leaving a negative impact, which seemed to be her view. "I thought it would set us back fifty years if I didn't win that match," King said. "It would ruin the women's tour and affect all women's self-esteem."

Her reaction was telling. Female athletes, even mature, confident champions like King, rarely gloat in victory. They're just relieved they haven't let anyone down.
Much of the book is dedicated to case studies of high-performing athletic girls, pretty much all of them soccer players. He discusses how they pursue their sport during secondary school, looking not just at the characters of these young athletes but also at the sports culture surrounding them--a culture that through its urging to focus on one sport to the exclusion of other activities and its opening of more opportunities for competition than a body can really endure actually breaks their bodies down rather than making them stronger.

[I hereby apologize for the length of that last sentence, but it is my blog and I am leaving it there.]

Sokolove notes that many of these girls suffer one ACL tear after another, yet keep playing. Most ACL "repairs" are really replacements: the destroyed ligament is replaced with tissue from other tendons in the athlete's own body or from cadaverous ACL tissue. The injuries do not make these girls consider quitting their sport until there is no more tissue to use for replacements, until they have usually busted out both knees and usually more than once.

Sokolove devotes a good bit of attention to work that is being done to figure out why girls tear their ACLs at eight times the rate boys do, and why the activity that causes the tear is often so much less intense. Is it a question of how girls' bodies develop at puberty? Girls' wider Q-angles, the measurement of the line from knee to hip? The way they run? The way they land when they jump? The laxity in all their joints that is a side-effect of the need of female bodies to be able to adjust to carrying a baby to term? That athletic girls tend to work "through the pain" more often and longer in order to avoid being called cry-babies? Or some combination of all or many of these things?

The book is a great read, particularly if you are interested in sport culture, injuries, and what it means to grow up as a girl. (Who, me?)

There are a few things, though, that I wish he treated in greater detail. For instance, thinking back to that first paragraph I quoted above, about what girls gain from sports: if sports are so good for girls, and give them a way to negotiate a wider culture that seems constantly to argue that as a woman you never fully have ownership of your own body--or at least of the demands placed upon it--then what happens to injured girls (and women) when they suddenly lose the ability to claim their bodies through sport?

And this: One chapter opens with these two sentences that had me saying (but not quite in the spirit of Molly Bloom) YES YES YES: "A young woman who suffers a serious athletic injury respond in an intensely personal way and has a limited capacity for reflection or self-protection. She is in pain--physical as well as emotional, because she has lost the thing she loves--and her response is to rehab as quickly as possible and get back on the field."

And then that's it, and he is on to the rehabbing. But wait: what about the very important points that preceded the second dash. Is that all there is to say? No insight into ways that a young woman might learn or be taught to manage this pain and sense of loss? In a book devoted to considering how to protect our daughters from this epidemic, might some attention be devoted to helping them manage the illness once they have contracted it?

And finally, I wish there were room in here for thinking about other sports and other injuries. I know that soccer offers the most dramatic example, because so many girls play it these days and because the injury percentage is so extreme. But what about injuries in other sports? Sokolove frequently mentions his own daughter, a swimmer, and how she managed pretty well in her sport with the exception of "one major injury" that cost her a full season. I can well understand why he would not want to write his daughter's own story--or why she might not want him to--but as an injured swimmer I am starving for that story. And given that there must be other injured girls and women out there who have hurt themselves doing something that is not soccer, I am certain that I am not alone.

I suppose what I am really saying here is not that these are problems with Sokolove's book, which focuses on the dramatic examples in order to make people pay attention, but rather that I hope that Sokolove's book opens an avenue for further discussion of these issues.

But you already knew this.

From here via here:

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Blogging against type?

No, I am not finally coming out with a diatribe against font and print. Rather, thanks to this link, I visited a site which claims to (with surprising speed!) be able to analyze the type of a person who keeps a particular blog. Here were my results:

The analysis indicates that the author of is of the type:
ESFP - The Performers

The entertaining and friendly type. They are especially attuned to pleasure and beauty and like to fill their surroundings with soft fabrics, bright colors and sweet smells. They live in the present moment and don´t like to plan ahead - they are always in risk of exhausting themselves. The enjoy work that makes them able to help other people in a concrete and visible way. They tend to avoid conflicts and rarely initiate confrontation - qualities that can make it hard for them in management positions.
The fact that this description really does not match me at all leaves me with a few alternatives:

1. The Typealyzer is absolute shite.

2. The me that writes this blog is not the dominant me. This is possible, since the blog is more about hobbies than work, more about free-time than driven time, more about mental meandering than getting things done, more about hanging out than dishing it out in meetings (where some of my colleagues have called me "fascistic"--unfairly, I would argue)--that kind of thing. I do tend to think that even in this blog I come across as more anti-social than this profile would suggest. . . .

Sorry to get all navel-gazing on you, but it is shocking to be so misunderstood.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The McCain campaign stole this song from Heart. We're stealing it back.


For once, the election interfered with my sleep in a GOOD way.

I admit it: I had a hard time staying awake through all the returns. So when I woke up and my friends told me that AP was calling Florida for Obama, and Virginia, and and and THE ELECTION? Well, I thought I might be dreaming. I rubbed my eyes a lot. John McCain's concession speech made me wonder if he had been body-unsnatched, as he sounded like the guy who I thought would be an OK president when he won the nomination, back before he chose Sarah Palin, and "suspended" his campaign and on and on.

When I was setting my alarm for the morning, I turned on the radio just in time to hear Barack Obama's acceptance speech--and cried. Can you believe this?

What a day this is. Everything looks different this morning.

Time for a new mix, and this one is about victory. Hot damn. But with a caveat: Track #18 hopes that voters in California, Arkansas, Florida, and Arizona won't always be haters.

I feel like taking all my clothes off, dancing to the Rite of Spring, and I wouldn't normally do this kind of thing. . . .

1. [the White House] by George Clinton
2. "Dancing in the Street" by Martha Reeves and the Vandellas
3. "Finally" by Ce Ce Peniston
4. "I Feel Better Than James Brown" by Was (Not Was)
5. "I Wouldn't Normally Do This Kind of Thing" by the Pet Shop Boys
6. "New Feeling" by Talking Heads
7. "Funky Party Time" by the J.D.'s
8. "I'm So Happy (Tra-La-La-La-La-La)" by Lewis Lymon and the Teenchords
9. "Of Thee I Sing" by ??
10. "Living Well Is the Best Revenge" by R.E.M.
11. "IF you don't get it the first time, back up and try it again, Party" by Fred Wesley and the JBs
12. "Good Day, Sunshine" by the Beatles
13. "Good Times" by Chic
14. "Paragraph Persident" by Blackalicious, f. De La Soul
15. "Oh Yeah" by Yello
16. "I'm Bad, I'm Nationwide" by ZZ Topp
17. "If you want to sing out, sing out" by Cat Stevens
18. "Go West" by the Village People
19. "America the Beautiful" by Ray Charles

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Come on, come on down, Sweet Virginia.

Oh hell. I thought that once this day arrived, everything would be fine. But now I am here to tell you that the time I had counted down to has arrived, I have voted, and I am still nervous as hell, despite estaminet's brilliant Lolbama.

And do you feel scared? I do, but I won't stop and falter.

I have been reading stories about voting, and my gosh what a sucker for them I am. I love to read about the lines, the voters, the witticisms, the new voters, the old voters, the amazing feeling so many of us have had to be voting this year.

The poll tax and Jim Crow and greed have got to go.

But still: it is about three hours before polls start closing here in the east, and then another four hours before the west coast closes.

We are hoping, yes and we're praying. . . .

Is there seriously enough whiskey in this world to calm my nerves?

I feel so extraordinary
Something's got a hold on me
I get this feeling I'm in motion
A sudden sense of liberty

So I am doing what I do when I cannot do anything else.

One step closer to knowing. . . .

No, I mean besides playing Word Twist on facebook. I have made a mix:

1. a clip from Parliament
2. "This Time" by INXS
3. "Things Can Only Get Better" by Howard Jones
4. "House of Hope" by Toni Childs
5. "Getting Better" by the Beatles
6. "Something's Coming" by the original cast of West Side Story
7. "Don't Worry About the Government" by Talking Heads
8. "True Faith" by New Order
9. "A Change Is Gonna Come" by Billy Bragg
10. "Hope" by Fat Freddy's Drop
11. "Message to Society" by Wally Coco
12. "Freedom" by Jurassic Five
13. a clip from Laurie Anderson
14. "High Time for a Detour" by k. d. lang and the Reclines
15. "Freedom for My People" by U2
16. "People Get Ready" by Eva Cassidy
17. "Super Good" by Dynamite Singletary
18. "Think" by Aretha Franklin
19. "Sweet Virginia" by the Rolling Stones
20. "One Step Closer" by U2
21. "All You Fascists" by Billy Bragg and Wilco

NOTE: This is not a victory mix. This is a hope mix.

I voted.

It took me one hour and forty minutes to get through the line, but I voted. Sure, I live in a state where my vote likely won't make a difference, but I voted. In my precinct, there was a vast disenfranchisement campaign against people whose last names begin with L-Z, but I voted.

I figure the good turn-out--nay, the best turn-out I have ever seen in these parts by the longest of shots--is good news, because as I walked through my precinct to the polls, I saw this:

Notice that that last house is so excited about Obama that they have 2 signs!

As I was taking these pictures, a guy walking down the street started yelling at me: "Hey lady! Are you out taking pictures today?"

Me: "Yes!"

GWDTS: "Take a picture of me!"

Me: "Really I am taking pictures of Obama signs. Did you vote?"

GWDTS: "Yes!" [I think he may have been lying.]

Me: "I think he has a real shot at winning."

GWDTS: "Well, we sure need a change!" [I revise my opinion about whether he voted.]

We could not get a sign, but we did commission our nextdoor neighbors' kids to make us one:

There is one house in our neighborhood that has had a BARR/ROOT sign in their yard for a long time, but recently they added another:

Is this a house divided? A conflicted voter? Is someone settling?

Standing in line at the polls was kind of a party. Everybody was surprised to see lines this long, or at all, since that never happens here. Besides, something like 12% of the registered voters in SC had already voted. There were two lines, depending on whether your last name started with A-K or L-Z, and the latter was far longer--too bad for me, because I am not registered as "Isis." By coincidence, I arrived at the polls about 2 minutes after the PP, so we waited in line together. We saw at least a dozen of our neighbors. When I got to the line, a neighbor who is a part of the A-K elite was just realizing that he could leave our long line for the shorter line, and he finished voting about an hour before us, including the time he spent standing around and chatting afterwards with the likes of us. He claimed that the A-K people are smarter and actually control the world, or at least the election commission. I pointed out that some other friends of ours, who had voted earlier that morning, and are also a part of the A-K bloc, had found their line disproportionately long. So now we figure that the A-K people just tend to get up earlier.

There were signs everywhere about how you cannot wear political attire or carry political banners into the polling places, or attempt to influence people's votes there. The PP wondered whether, since trying to influence my vote would be futile, there might be an exception. I asked him to please note that the sign did not distinguish between futile or promising attempts.

There was no one on the ballot for Soil and Water Commissioner--yes, no one--so we had thought yesterday about writing in the PP so he could take the job. But then he realized that it might be a bigger job than he would want, so we decided to write in a neighbor who is also a water guy. I decided today that the PP would just be too good not to try to elect him. I guess we were inside the polling place (still waiting in the L-Z sign-in line) by the time he asked me who I was voting for and I told him him. He said no, I was supposed to vote for our neighbor, but I told him to back off since it was illegal for him to try to influence my vote inside the polling place.

I suppose given how long the wait was that it was no surprise how many cranky children there were inside the polling place. I came to suspect that the one screaming child was actually giving voice to all of our fatigue, frustration, and sore backs. But as this screaming child was wheeled out the door in its pram, the PP asked, "Why does that child hate freedom?"

There was a bit of a scare at one point because the polling place ran out of "I voted" stickers. We had already been waiting about an hour and twenty minutes by this point, so we really wanted our damn stickers, because why would you vote except to get a sticker? But luckily they found some more, so by the time I actually had voted, I got my little sticker.

I cannot even explain to you how much I love voting. There have certainly been other years in which I really really really wanted my guy to win, but man oh man THIS year I really want it. Like, a LOT. But it is not just that: I am a big sucker for democracy. I believe in giving a voice to everyone, whether they do the work to be informed or not. I love seeing people come out to vote. And this year, I loved seeing older and disabled voters still getting themselves to the polls to vote in this historic election. I got a chill when I cast my vote. And I am still proudly wearing my sticker.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Let me buy the next round (or why I am voting for Obama).

If you read Thomas Friedman in the NYT this morning, you know that, in keeping with the editorial principles of the paper, he is not offering an endorsement. Rather he lays out three things to look for in a candidate:

1. We need a president who can speak English and deconstruct and navigate complex issues so Americans can make informed choices.

2. We need a president who can energize, inspire and hold the country together during what will be a very stressful recovery.

3. We need a president who can rally the world to our side.

I agree with him, though I expect that the opinions page editors are probably savvy enough to read between the lines of his "non-endorsement."

But then he says something else: "Please do not vote for the candidate you most want to have a beer with (unless it’s to get stone cold drunk so you don’t have to think about this mess we’re in). Vote for the person you’d most like at your side when you ask your bank manager for an extension on your mortgage."

I started out agreeing with this too, but as I read it aloud to the PP, I changed my mind about the first sentence. The more I thought about it, the more I really, really, really wanted to sit down over pints with Barack Obama. After all, he is an incredibly smart man, and what is more fun than talking about complicated issues with intelligent people? Who really know their stuff? And are very articulate? Furthermore, I expect he'd have one of those wry senses of humor that recognizes what a remarkable mess we find ourselves in, but still retains a glimmer of optimism that there is a way out. And I imagine that talking college hoops with him would be a blast, even if he is not a Heels fan.

Which is to say that we love to imagine the entire electorate as uninformed, uneducated, and afraid of smart people. (Certainly this is not entirely wrong, or the Karl Roves and Sarah Palins of the world would not be so successful.) But if Thomas Jefferson is right that democracy needs an informed electorate, then can't those of us who are trying our darnedest have our little pub-crawling fantasies? In mine, Barack Obama blends into Ciaran Carson, the Belfast poet who I had drinks with this summer (I know--cool, isn't it?) and who, late in the evening, sang two traditional Irish ballads, silencing the pub. And also, Obama is no more able than I am to refuse the increasingly rhetorical arguments of my drinking mates, who have been known to claim, after several rounds of Midleton, that if we do not have one more 15-year-old Bushmills, then we will be undoing the hard work of the Protestant Reformation. And when people get going reciting poetry, Obama listens attentively, and applauds his compatriots, and then when it is his turn he lets loose with some Philip Larkin or Ai or Robert Hass or Lucille Clifton or Sherman Alexie. From time to time he checks the scores on the TVs in the bar, but not at the expense of the banter around him.

In other words, yes, I want the smartest people possible leading our country--regardless of whether I think they would be interesting to know personally. In this case, though, I am not sure these categories are mutually exclusive. And is it so much to ask that there be smart people around to talk to, hang out with, end sentences with prepositions about? I would hate to distract Obama from the issues of state by keeping him out late at the pubs, but from time to time, I would sure love to buy him a pint.